Office of General Counsel

Process for Responding to Third Party Information Requests

Purpose

Emerson College has set forth a process for responding to certain third party information requests.  While it is well established that employees should always direct subpoenas or court documents to the Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”), there has recently been some confusion about the proper approach to requests from actual or purported law enforcement personnel or government agencies.  Accordingly, the College states as follows:

Recognition of Institutional Goals

Any policies and procedures relating to the dissemination of student information should be consistent with our responsibility to protect (1) students; (2) student information; and (3) personnel.  In addition, we aim to comply with our legal obligations, including specifically, our reporting obligations as a participant in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).  The College’s continued participation in SEVP allows us to advance our goals of internationalization and global engagement, and to promote diversity and inclusion in our community.

Types of Information Requests at Issue

We anticipate that various College offices may receive requests for information in the course of their usual work.  We do not intend to disturb or interfere with routine, ongoing, and expected requests for information from known individuals or agencies.  Rather, these recommendations relate to unexpected requests.  These would include, but are not limited to, a call, communication, or surprise visit from an individual purporting to be an agent of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, etc.  Requests could relate to students’ immigration paperwork and F-1 compliance, attendance, disciplinary matters, schedule, or location information.

Suggested Procedures

We will refer to the agencies or personnel as “Requestor(s).”

Request for Phone or Email Information

  1. Contacted Department will use script below to direct Requestor to ECPD for verification of credentials and identity.
  2. Immediately alert ECPD and Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of request.  If there is a written request, forward it to ECPD and OGC.
  3. After ECPD verifies that Requestor is an actual official, OGC will work with Contacted Department to determine whether the information can be provided to the Requestor.  This may be very simple and the next steps could take a variety of forms. 
    1. OGC may simply advise that the Contacted Department respond to the call or email.
    2. OGC may contact or instruct the Contacted Department to contact other relevant departments/administrators to make determinations about whether the College possesses and is able to release particular information.  Issues that may arise here include FERPA and the release of Personally Identifiable Information.  In most instances, the College will insist on a subpoena before releasing information including Directory Information under FERPA.
    3. OGC will consult with the Contacted Department to determine whether another department is best suited to handle the request.
    4. OGC will advise the Contacted Department on whether it is appropriate to request a subpoena, file a motion to quash a subpoena, or otherwise contest the request.  In that case, OGC may communicate directly with the Requestor.
    5. OGC will consult with the Contacted Department on whether it is appropriate to notify the student who is the subject of the request and if so, how.

Request for In-Person Visit (Made by Phone or Email)

  1. Contacted Department will use script below to direct Requestor to ECPD for verification of credentials and identity.
  2. Immediately alert ECPD and Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of request.  If there is a written request, forward it to ECPD and OGC.
  3. After ECPD verifies that Requestor is an actual official, OGC will work with Contacted Department to confirm that the meeting is appropriate and determine who should attend.  If at all possible, OGC will advise the Contacted Department to ask for details about the subject of the meeting in advance.  The following may occur: 
    1. OGC may simply advise that the Contacted Department agree to the meeting.
    2. OGC may advise that OGC and/or external counsel attend the meeting.
    3. OGC may contact or instruct the Contacted Department to contact other relevant departments/administrators to make determinations about whether the College possesses and is able to release particular information.  Issues that may arise here include FERPA and the release of Personally Identifiable Information.  In most instances, the College will insist on a subpoena before releasing information including Directory Information under FERPA.
    4. OGC will consult with the Contacted Department to determine whether another department is best-suited to handle the request.
    5. OGC will consult with the Contacted Department on whether it is appropriate to contest the request with the Requestor or a court.  In that case, OGC may communicate directly with the Requestor.
    6. OGC will consult with the Contacted Department on whether it is appropriate to notify the student who is the subject of the request and if so, how.
  4. If the meeting is scheduled, the Requestor should be directed to check in with ECPD.  The Contacted Department should not register the Requestor in the iVisitor system for broad access to particular buildings.  Instead, the Requestor should be instructed to visit ECPD upon arrival for the appointment.  Then, ECPD will escort the Requestor to the meeting.  

Unplanned Site Visit

  1. Building Security will direct Requestor to ECPD. 
  2. ECPD will verify credentials and identity.
  3. ECPD will contact the Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) and Contacted Department.
  4. OGC and Contacted Department will determine the options for an unplanned site visit.
    1. In some circumstances, the Requestor will agree to return at a mutually agreeable time.  At that time, OGC and/or outside counsel may attend the visit.
    2. In some circumstances, by virtue of our participation in a particular government program, we may not be able to contest an unplanned site visit.  In those instances, the OGC will advise the Contacted Department and if possible/appropriate, OGC will attend the visit.
  5. The Requestor should not be allowed a badge through the iVisitor system, but should be escorted to the meeting by ECPD.  

OGC Contact Information

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of General Counsel.

Christine Hughes, General Counsel

  • Office number:  617-824-8908
  • Christine_Hughes [at] emerson.edu

Meredith Ainbinder, Deputy General Counsel

  • Office number:  617-824-8998
  • Meredith_Ainbinder [at] emerson.edu

If you need to reach OGC after hours, contact ECPD dispatch at 617-824-8555.

Script for ECPD Credential Referral

Thank you for contacting our office. In order to be sure we are only providing information to authorized personnel, we must ask that you contact the Emerson College Police Department for them to verify you as a law enforcement or government official. Please call 617-824-8555 and ask to speak with one of the following: Chief Robert Smith, Deputy Chief Eric Schiazza, Lieutenant Robert Bousquet, Sergeant Carmelo Serrano or Detective Steven Giacoppo.